Penny Dreadful: Glorious Horrors Review (S2 E6)

This week’s episode of Penny Dreadful starts the downswing of the season. Everyone is either hiding or on display this week, sometimes uncomfortably so. Early on, we find out that Dorian is throwing a party—a ball, really. He wants to throw a ball in honor of Angelique. He says she “deserves a proper coming out.”

There are all kinds of implications in that phrase and in the ball itself. Dorian’s coming out ball for Angelique works as the unifying force for most of the episode, and it works as a good metaphor for what is happening with many of the characters. (Fair warning: spoilers below.)

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But first, let’s go back a bit. Early in the episode, Ethan gets a visit from Mr. Roper, the survivor of the Mariner’s Inn Massacre and a Pinkerton agent hired to bring Ethan home. Ethan’s story is one of the few this week that doesn’t end at the ballroom. Vanessa invites him along, but he declines. More on that later.

Sir Malcolm, meanwhile, is positively giddy. When he comes home to the news that his wife has killed herself, it hardly seems to bother him at all. Instead, he sits in his room, contemplating whether or not to shave. He asks Vanessa’s advice, and she is confused by his behavior–as is everyone else. It isn’t quite like Malcolm to be so callous. Cowardly, perhaps. But not callous.

(I’m supposing that all of this behavior and gallivanting has something to do with that ring Evelyn used to draw blood during sexy-times. And it’s definitely got something to do with that fetish that Evelyn has now made of Malcolm.)

Dorian shows up at the Murray home and invites Vanessa, Frankenstein, and Lily to the ball. When Frankenstein returns home to tell Lily about the invitation, she seems glorioushorrs2excited but nervous—and Frankenstein seems just as nervous.

Ethan pays a visit to the museum, where the murder scenes have just opened as a new exhibit. He stops in for a peak at the Mariner’s Inn Massacre set-up, and Inspector Rusk is there. It’s clear that Ethan’s presence in the museum heightens Rusk’s already-high suspicions about Ethan. Also happening at the museum: Lavinia knows that John Clare isn’t alive—there’s something wrong in his touch, something too cold about him. Uh-oh.

And then it’s time for the ball. I couldn’t help thinking that it was going be a bit Episode 206disastrous, and my was it ever. Lily immediately seemed to know the ballroom—and it was, in fact, the same room where she met Dorian to take pornographic photos and have sexy-times. And speak of the devil—when Dorian is introduced to Lily, it’s clear that they are taken with one another. They gaze into one another’s eyes as they dance. And when Frankenstein tries to take back his dancing partner, she won’t be taken back. She’s also not worried about what he has to say about her drinking. The two argue quite a bit at the party—awkward.

And it’s not just Frankenstein who is upset by Dorian and Lily’s behavior. Angelique is also quite upset—understandably so, especially since it’s her party. And Elsewhere in Frankenstein Is Having a Bad Night: Vanessa reveals to him that she’s met the Creature, though she as yet knows nothing of his connection to Frankenstein.

Sir Malcolm and Evelyn show up at the ball. Turns out, he shaved his beard after all. (Bad move–maybe it’s just me being partial to beards in general, but I liked the glorioushorrors3beard better.) Evelyn re-introduces herself to Vanessa, reminding her that she met Evelyn as Madame Kali at the seance. As Sir Malcolm leaves to get drinks, Vanessa confronts Evelyn about the changes in Sir Malcolm. Later, as Vanessa is talking with Lyle, he starts to notice the change in the room, the witches staring at her—he’s clearly concerned for her safety and asks to walk her home. Vanessa agrees to go after saying goodnight to Frankenstein, but this is her undoing. As she walks across the room, Hecate moves toward her. The room starts spinning, and in Carrie-style but even worse, blood starts to rain down in the ballroom, covering the dancers and musicians and portraits while no one notices.

Vanessa faints. Frankenstein and Lyle rush to her side, the room perfectly normal, nothing like what Vanessa was seeing. And across town, we find out why Ethan was so quick to doge the invitation to the ball. It’s a full moon. Ethan goes downstairs with Sembene, who he asks him to watch but not come closer. A show-and-tell seems to be as close as Ethan is going to come to really opening up.

He howls and crumples over, his teeth lengthening and his eyes yellowing.Then he changes. Ethan is a werewolf, and Sembene knows.

It looks like next week we might return to the Cut Wife’s cottage, and perhaps those Ethan and Vanessa shippers might finally get their wish.

Penny Dreadful: Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places Review (S2 E4)

And we’re back to talk about episode 4 of Penny Dreadful season 2; my apologies for the tardiness, but I quite literally forgot that yesterday was Monday. Whoops!

After the singular fixation of last week’s “Nightcomers,” with Vanessa’s past, we returned this week to the characters’ present as they try to decipher the Verbis Diablo and ferret out what the witches are up to. Ah yes, and there’s a bit of fun, too, something the show could use a bit more of. (Spoilers are lurking below—beware!)

We open with Vanessa telling the group about the nightcomers and about the Cut-Wife, relating the story that she told Ethan last week. And about time, too. Vanessa is one of my

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Danny Sapani as Sembene, Simon Russell Beale as Ferdinand Lyle and Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 4). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_204_1313

favorite characters, but she has a penchant for withholding information that could be both deadly and damning, information the other characters Actually Need to Know. Frankenstein, in typical scientist fashion, dismisses what she’s saying on the basis that there’s no such thing as witches. Umm, Doctor? You’ve now brought 2 people back to life and seen vampires—why’s this a stretch?

Anyway, Vanessa ends up accompanying Victor to a dress shop the next day, where he explains that he needs to buy a dress for his second cousin (emphasis on second part) who is visiting from the country. He admires Vanessa’s style, runs into a mannequin, and gets flustered when the clerk suggests that he and Vanessa are together. He blushes as Vanessa jokes about underwear and cleavage. The scene is a lovely, awkward moment underwearfor two characters who rarely get to laugh.

Back at his house, Victor has Lily try on the things he’s bought for her. And she really doesn’t like them. Or, at least, she doesn’t like how they feel. The corset is tight, the shoes uncomfortable, and Lily’s realizing that the garb she’s wearing is “for men, isn’t it.” Frankenstein agrees that she can lose the corset, but she keeps the shoes.

Meanwhile, the Creature/Caliban/John Clare is working in the basement of the wax museum. He talks with Lavinia, the owners’ daughter, who helps sculpt the wax figures. There’s a nice moment when she talks about the suffering she must inflict on some of the figures, the horrifying moments she must put them into. For our Creature, this is just the kind of thing he understands.

The Putneys are also planning something else for their wax museum—something to do with “flesh and blood freaks.” Oh hell. Why do I feel like this means our Creature? Is this what Putney meant when he said “hush woman, that face will make us our fortune?” Dman.

And we finally see Dorian again. He’s with Angelique, and they go to a bizarre club full champagneof ping pong tables and champagne. And she’s a firecracker. Unconcerned about the stares she brings, and she’s more than a match for Dorian—that’s the genius of having them play a dozen rounds of ping pong, Dorian losing every match.

And speaking of losing matches—Hecate decides to try and woo Ethan by setting a trap for him. She spooks a horse and then runs in front of the carriage it’s pulling, and Ethan must save her. They go and have tea, but she’s just not convincing enough. Lobsters live in fields, apparently, and stiletto boots are sensible shoes. Ethan is of course not convinced, but he believes she’s been employed by his father to bring him home. And across town, Inspector Rusk is still looking into the Mariner’s Inn Massacre—and he suspects magic.hecate

And at the Murray home, Lyle is still working on translating the Verbis Diablo. The artifacts that the text is written upon must be sequences: the demon spoke in various languages, telling the story of being cast from heaven. There’s some discussion over whether Vanessa’s future is told in the relics, but she’ll have none of it. She goes to her room—and we see that everyone is being watched by the witches, who are hiding in the wallpaper. *shudder* They attack, managing to steal a lock of Vanessa’s hair before she breaks in the Verbis Diablo and expels them from the house.

Next week, it looks like we’ll see more about Putney’s plans and, of course, more of those nightcomers.

Blogging A to Z Day 30: Zombies!

As Sourcerer’s resident horror blogger, it should be no surprise that I am a zombie fanatic. I watch zombie films, I read zombie books, I keep up with The Walking Dead and iZombie and virtually every other zombie show or flick out there, and I sometimes play zombie games.

There are, of course, a host of things that help to account for our fascination with zombies:

fear of disease, fear of death, fear of losing our mental faculties, etc. We seem at once aware of the zombie as a fictional character and concerned about the plausibility of a zombie outbreak. And the result of our fascination is that zombies have become a multi-million dollar industry.

As for me, there are three simple but terribly true reasons that I find zombie stories compelling. The first is the world that gets created when everything fails-the government, and by extension education, social welfare, prison systems, road maintenance, etc.; and modern inventions, including electricity, the Internet, GPS, running water, and telecommunications.

The second is the failure of modern notions of childhood, morality, and socioeconomic status to hold up under the pressures of a post apocalyptic world. In Zombieland, one of most disturbing erosions of culture is the loss of names; in The Walking Dead, it’s the loss of childhood embodied by Carl, Judith, and Carol’s decision to teach the children about knife safety and zombie killing during story-time; in 28 Days Later, it’s ownership of the female body. These conversations mirror conversations that we have daily, that we rehearse in our arguments about these concepts.

And the third thing is the complexities that arise when we see something human that isn’t human. Or that we don’t think is human. In Shaun of the Dead, the undead are able to be trained to perform simple tasks. In Warm Bodies, they retain something of their prior selves and can think and feel. And there is a repeated scene in which someone must kill a loved-one-turned-zombie, one that turns up in virtually every piece of zombie fiction ever.

And so, here at the end of A to Z, and on a Thursday, no less, I give you a Thursday 13 of my favorite zombie flicks:

13zombiefavorites

This post is by @parttimemonster of Part Time Monster and Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Part Time Monster!

Blogging A to Z Day 9: The Hunger Games

I first read The Hunger Games just after they released the U.S. paperback editions. I had some time over the summer to do some light reading, and I’d been hearing so much about the series that I decided to buy the set. I read them in less than a week, and I probably would’ve read them all in one sitting if I could’ve–I’m a sucker for dystopias and for well-rendered, badass female characters.

I knew from the second page of the book that Katniss Everdeen was going to be One of Those. She’s is stalking around outside her district, trying to hunt food without being caught. She is followed by a mountain lion, and she thinks of this creature as a friend for a while. But then the creature starts making too much noise, and she kills it. This is on the second page of the book.

This is a girl that we do not often see the likes of in literature. She is flawed, but she is strong. She’s strong enough to be a little frightening, and we know this immediately.

And then there was the society itself. A post-apocalyptic world with a vaguely familiar geography an exaggerated class stratification, a place where children fought one another in a frightening arena. The class differences were so obvious when they were pitted against one another, when children who’d gone hungry all their lives and never held a weapon had to fight children who’d trained like Spartan warriors for the day they’d volunteer for the battle.

And then it was televised. The death of 23 children every year, forced to fight one another. And all this a reminder  Panem, we find out in Mockingjay, is derived from the Latin panem et circenses-literally bread and circuses, but figuratively the cultural exchanges that happen when elaborate entertainments are used to pacify and to distract citizens from major problems.

Katniss changes things, though. She doesn’t do what the ringleader demands of her, and the circus begins to fall apart. The beauty of The Hunger Games lies in being in the center of the ugliness without actually being there. You’re looking in from outside—and then you realize that you’re in the place of a Capitol citizen, watching (or reading) vicariously while the horrific action unfolds around you.

Advertisements for the films, especially for the two-part Mockingjay conclusion, are very conscious of this framing. Fashion ads for the districts were published in magazines as promos for the film. Trailers aired in first-person-shooter. The marketing reinforced the panoptic feel of the series, and with stunning effect.

Mockjay Part 2 is due out November 1, and since I missed seeing Part 1 in theaters because it came out during my exams, I’m making sure to see this one in theaters. (And I’ll probably read the books before then, too!)

This post is by @parttimemonster of Part Time Monster and Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Part Time Monster!